Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Nm 21: 4B-9; Ps 78: 1BC-2, 34-38; Phil 2: 6-11; Jn 3:13-17

On this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we celebrate the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation. Multiple times in scripture a reference is made to Jesus having been “hung on a tree.” This reference to the Cross as a tree has a much deeper meaning for us. The Cross became a life-giving tree for us, and it turned around Adam’s original sin when he ate of the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The Cross is so central to our beliefs.

The readings for this Feast each have a strong relationship to our appreciation of and our understanding of the meaning of the Cross. The first reading is from the Book of Numbers. Numbers is the fourth Book in our Old Testament (also the fourth book of what is called the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament). It derives its name from the historical fact that it involves two censuses taken of the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, one at the beginning of the trek and one at the end. This particular passage from Numbers 21 describes how the people are discouraged and they literally speak out against God. One of the hallmarks of stewardship is trust in God, faith in the Lord, our hope in salvation through Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites, we may at times become discouraged, but we must always focus on the fact that God is there for us always, that He watches over us, and that He is our strength.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians, our second reading, presents Jesus as the ultimate example of humility. As much as we may resist it, humility is another key characteristic of a stewardship way of life. From His humble beginnings in a manger to the humiliation of death on the Cross Jesus bore humility like none other. His example of humility is a standard for each of us as we approach living as a steward. St. Paul makes reference to some of Jesus’ humiliations, but it is well for us to keep in mind all the ways the Lord might have approached living among us, but He chose the more humble approach consistently, represented by His birth, the fact that he came as a baby, not as a grown adult; His willingness to be a child beholden to His parents; His humble way of teaching and addressing people; His humble approach to life in general, becoming a carpenter, a basic and useful trade; but most of all His humble acceptance of death on the Cross with all of the agony and sacrifice associated with that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That scriptural statement, considered by many to be the central and climactic point of John’s entire Gospel, is so full of consequence to us as Catholics and Christians that we could almost analyze it in detail phrase by phrase. Let us just examine the opening phrase, “For God so loved the world…” We have a tendency to filter our own understandings through the many ways a word is used and what it may mean to us. The word “love” certainly falls into that category. The love described here, the love that God feels for us, that He felt for His Son, and that was returned to Him by His Son, is a love almost beyond our comprehension. It is a complete love, shared with all and felt for all, believers and non believers. There is no way that we can match or equal that love. It is a love beyond our ability to feel, but that is exactly what we are called to strive toward. Another word for stewardship is quite simply “love” — unconditional and total.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Nm 21: 4B-9; Ps 78: 1BC-2, 34-38; Phil 2: 6-11; Jn 3:13-17

One of the aspects of our stewardship should be a desire to understand and appreciate the significance of many of the celebrations, feasts, and solemnities we as Catholics observe and experience. Today’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross celebrates three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena; the construction and dedication of churches by Helena’s son the Emperor Constantine on the site of Mt. Calvary where Christ was crucified; and, the return of the Cross to Jerusalem by the Emperor Heraclius II.

As Catholics, we need to remember the Cross every time we make the Sign of the Cross. We make that sign often and almost always at the beginning and the end of our prayers. However, that sign in itself is a prayer. Sometimes we do it automatically without really considering its meaning and importance. Rather than a hurried sign, we should make the Sign of the Cross with reverence, respect, and the constant reflection of how vital the Cross is to our salvation. Stewardship invites us to practice our faith with this deference and appreciation to the Lord, truly in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 33: 7-9; Ps 95: 1-2, 6-9; Rom 13: 8-10; Mt 18: 15-20

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” That is one of those statements made by the Lord with which almost all are familiar. The key, of course, is gathering “in His name.” Most of us realize that Jesus is with us always, but His point is that if we acknowledge His presence and are conscious of it, His presence is greater.

On this Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear words of wisdom, comfort, and encouragement. Our first reading is drawn from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel. The name Ezekiel means “God gives strength.” That in itself is a message we would be wise to remember and to use in everything we do. Ezekiel was born around 627 B.C. Recall that the Babylonian invasion and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians occurred in 586 B.C., 41 years after Ezekiel’s birth.

Ezekiel is considered a major prophet. Were you aware that each of us who has been baptized is considered a prophet as well? The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it this way: “In Israel those consecrated to God for a mission that He gave were anointed in His name. This had to be the case all the more so for the Messiah Whom God would send to inaugurate His Kingdom definitively. It was necessary that the Messiah be anointed by the Spirit of the Lord at once as king and priest and also as prophet.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #436) In Baptism we are each anointed, and we each are called to be prophets.

Contrary to popular perception, the prophets did not so much predict the future as to comment on their present. Through stewardship each of us is called in the same way to be aware of the present every day and to devote ourselves to service to God and to others. Just as Ezekiel reflects the coming of Christ in today’s reading (“You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.”), a comment that gives hope to the people, one of our roles as prophets is to bring hope to others.

And what is the best way to bring that hope? St. Paul in our second reading sums it up as Jesus did, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” At the beginning of today’s reading from Paul’s letter, he says, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” That statement has been debated for centuries, as some who take it literally have concluded that Christians cannot have a debt. However, they are ignoring that important clause which follows, “except to love one another.” That is our debt and that is a major motivation to be a good steward. St. Paul is not talking about credit cards; he is talking about Jesus’ challenge to us to love one another, and the Lord’s call to discipleship and stewardship.

As mentioned at the beginning of this reflection, today’s Gospel closes with Jesus saying, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Note that just prior to that the Lord says, “amen I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.” As is sometimes the case there is a stewardship message hidden among those statements. In ancient Greek the word translated as “agree” also meant to “harmonize.” The implication of that is that each of us is called to share our gifts, and when we all share together we produce a great chorus, a grand anthem, for it is together through stewardship that we are powerful, and when we do that in His name, we are most effective.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: September 7, 2014

September 7, 2014 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ez 33: 7-9; Ps 95: 1-2, 6-9; Rom 13: 8-10; Mt 18: 15-20

As we review and reflect upon the readings for any given Sunday, it is good to try to connect what is proclaimed with our lives and our understanding of stewardship. Sometimes it may be an entire passage, like the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Other times it may be just a phrase, or even a single word.

In today’s first reading from Ezekiel, God declares, “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the House of Israel.” Ezekiel lived and prophesied some 600 years before the birth of Christ. If we listen carefully and attentively to Holy Scripture, we may notice that Jesus almost always refers to Himself as the Son of Man. Here is a reference to that phrase centuries before He came. The other key word in that sentence is the word “watchman.”

We may think of a watchman as a kind of security guard, but that is not exactly what the word meant in Ezekiel’s time. It was synonymous with “steward.” This is God declaring that Jesus, the Son of Man, is appointed the steward of Israel and all of us as well. The appointment is from God, not from a human. We are called in the same way, by God, to be good stewards.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 20: 7-9; Ps 63: 2-6, 8-9; Rom 12: 1-2; Mt 16: 21-27

Jesus does not mince words in the Gospel when He says, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We may not find much comfort in those words, but that is because our focus tends to be on life right here and right now, not the promise of everlasting life offered by the Lord.

The readings on this Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time emphasize much of the challenge we may have in following the Lord and doing what He asks us to. The first reading is from the Prophecy of Jeremiah. One of the longest books of the Old Testament, Jeremiah recounts warnings by the prophet of the same name to the people of Judah. Anticipating the Babylonian invasion in 586 B.C., Jeremiah warns the people that they must repent and change or they are doomed.

No one likes to be chastised, let alone rebuked. Jeremiah was doing what God had told him to. Yet, he was reviled and hated and eventually killed. In today’s brief reading Jeremiah is pleading with God to help him. He tells God he really does not want to continue because of how he is treated, but at the same time he acknowledges that the word of God “becomes like fire burning in my heart.” In other words, a higher power is within him. That same power is in us if we allow it to be. We need a “burning desire” to live as the Lord wishes us, to pursue discipleship through stewardship.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, our second reading, reiterates the challenge of living a good and spiritual life. One of his key warnings to us is “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” We must be willing to live, in modern terms “outside the box” sometimes. When Paul challenges us “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,” he is not asking us to lay down our lives, although many Christians through the centuries have done exactly that. In the idea of stewardship, we are fond of speaking of giving our time, our talent, and our treasure. However, the Lord wants more than that. He wants us to give of our very selves to serve Him and one another. That is the point which Paul is making. God wants our whole self, not just a small percentage of it.

As is often the case, Jesus takes it all a step further in the Gospel from Matthew. The Lord points out to us that if we really wish to follow Him we must deny ourselves (“Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself.”). This is similar to Paul’s command. Stewardship is a God-centered way of living, not a self-centered way. It is one of those ways in which we deny ourselves for the benefit of the Kingdom and for others. The reality of life is that it always ends in death, but Jesus has provided us a way to avoid that. That is what He means when He says “take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus is indeed “the way and the truth and the life,” and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

One of our popular modern questions is “What’s in it for me?” What do I get out of living a life of stewardship? Jesus makes it very clear that He will “repay all according to our conduct.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jer 20: 7-9; Ps 63: 2-6, 8-9; Rom 12: 1-2; Mt 16: 21-27

All of the readings for this Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time confirm the fact that it is not always easy to follow the Lord; in fact, being a Christian and living as Jesus has challenged us to do can be downright uncomfortable.

We may not suffer the humiliations and dangers that our fellow Catholics do in many parts of this world; however, we do not live in a society which always views us in a positive way. Stewardship challenges us to follow and support our beliefs in more places than at church on the weekend. We are expected to set Christian examples, and we are especially expected to follow the beliefs we profess.

Jesus could not be more obvious when He states in today’s Gospel: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” At no time in Holy Scripture does the Lord ever say, “This will be easy.” Professing our beliefs in a society which may belittle them is certainly not easy. Yet, that is our call. St. Paul tells us in the second reading, “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” No, it is not easy, but Jesus expects us to be His disciple. The Lord wants us to embrace and live out stewardship in our lives.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 22: 19-23; Ps 138: 1-3, 6, 8; Rom 11: 33-36; Mt 16: 13-20

“You are Christ, Son of the living God.” With those words Peter confirms and affirms that he and the other Apostles fully realize exactly Who Jesus really is. The readings on this 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time address what it means to be a good steward; how God is the Creator and Designer of everything; and how we are expected to respond to the Lord’s authority.

In the first reading from Isaiah there is a telling statement in the first verse when the Lord identifies Shebna as the “master of the palace.” This means that Shebna is the “steward” of the palace. A steward is someone who holds the responsibility of being a master, but is not the owner. We, of course, are the masters of all we have and all we are, but we are not the owners. God is the owner; we merely hold God’s gifts, including all of our skills and talents, in trust, and are expected to use those gifts to serve God and others.

It is important that we bear in mind that Isaiah was a prophet, and what he is describing in this passage is Messianic in nature — that is, at the appointed time God will designate Jesus as His steward on earth, and it will be Jesus who truly holds the keys to the Kingdom — salvation and eternal life.

At the time St. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, from which our second reading is drawn, he was most likely in Greece, preparing to travel to Jerusalem for the final time. He had not evangelized in Rome as yet, but planned to do so in the future. This letter is Paul’s longest and contains the most “theology” of any of his letters. Although the reading is brief, Paul’s style, commitment, faith, and understanding are richly presented.

Paul points out that God is and should be the center of our lives. Living a God-centered life is important if we truly aspire to be a steward. Just as in the first reading we hear that it is Jesus who holds the keys to the Kingdom, this reading reaffirms that it is only through Christ that we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven.: “from him and through him and for him are all things.” Observe that all is “for him” (the Lord), not for any of us. We cannot do what God can do, even though we sometimes imagine that we can. Paul closes by telling us that we should live not to honor ourselves, but to honor God… “To him be glory forever.”

The Gospel repeats to us (and the Apostles) again Who Jesus is and what He came to do. Take note that Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, which is the term He used most often to describe Himself. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” This is noteworthy in our understanding of not only the Lord’s perspective of Who He was, but in the perception of the Apostles, as well as ours. It was as if Jesus continuously emphasized the Holy Trinity. By calling Himself the Son of Man, when He was also the Son of God, the Lord made it clear to us that He was one with us.

He expands His question though when He says to the Apostles, “Who do you say I am?” This is the same question we must answer, in our daily lives and by the way we live them. Jesus, when He hears Peter’s answer, “You are Christ, Son of the living God,” proclaims that Peter is the “rock” on which He will build His Church. Peter later reminds us all that we are part of that structure, but assures us that Jesus is the cornerstone. Stewardship invites us to fulfill our part of that total structure as “We are one Body in Christ.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 22: 19-23; Ps 138: 1-3, 6, 8; Rom 11: 33-36; Mt 16: 13-20

Tucked away in the middle of the second reading (from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans) is one of the jewels of stewardship. Paul asks his readers “who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid?” This echoes that splendid verse from Psalm 116: “How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me?”

This is the stewardship attitude — the stewardship approach to life. We recognize that all we have and all we are and all the blessings we receive come to us from God. It is a bit of a misnomer to even say that we are “repaying” God because we cannot. It is our slight way of thanking God.

And that is the point of Paul’s statement as Paul indicates that God cannot be outdone in generosity. That is another essential point in understanding stewardship. God does not need what we may offer in return, but we need to make that offering — an offering of our very being, of our time, our talent, and our treasure.

In the Gospel, Jesus poses the question, “Who do you say I am?” This question is as much for us as it was for the Apostles at that time. If we truly believe that Jesus is our Savior, we need to live lives that acknowledge that. That is what committing to lives of stewardship does.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

FAQs – Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference

With about a month to go before the next Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference – to be held Sept. 9-10 at the Diocese of Wichita’s Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kansas – now is your final chance to register for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

For more than 10 years, the McGread Conference has inspired and educated thousands of priests, religious, and lay Catholics looking to transform their parishes through stewardship.

The conference is named for the late Msgr. Thomas McGread, who passed away in April 2013. Msgr. McGread has been called the “Father of Stewardship,” and he was instrumental in the drafting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. Conference attendees will hear the incredible story of how Msgr. McGread’s stewardship vision transformed his parish — St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita — and how his stewardship model has impacted other parishes across the country. The conference is scheduled during the middle of the week so that all participants can arrive Tuesday evening and depart Thursday afternoon.

Curious if the Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference is for you or your parish? Here are a few Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) to give you a better idea of what to expect.

What topics will the speakers cover in their presentations? 
Each of the pastors and lay leaders invited to speak at this conference will share his or her parish’s stewardship story. Learn about the joys and challenges of implementing stewardship into a parish setting. Additionally, a CSC representative will speak about practical steps for developing stewardship in your parish.

My parish is already a “stewardship parish.” Will I learn anything new at the conference? 
Definitely! In addition to the insights and best practices mentioned during each of our presentations, the conference offers attendees the opportunity to network and learn from clergy and laity at other parishes, who may be in different stages along the stewardship journey.

Can I buy merchandise, or take home “freebies” at this conference? 
While we do not sell merchandise at our Msgr. McGread Conferences, there will be several free items that each attendee can take home. Those items include the book Grateful and Giving by Dcn. Don McArdle, which explores the beginnings of stewardship at St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, a DVD presentation of Msgr. McGread speaking about stewardship, and more!

I don’t think “stewardship” will work at my parish. Should I still attend the conference anyway? 
First of all, stewardship can work at every parish and in every person’s life! The USCCB, in its pastoral letter Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, states that stewardship and discipleship go hand-in-hand. We are all called to be disciples and, therefore, we are all called to stewardship. Attending the Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference will offer additional insights on how stewardship can transform your parish community. Additionally, representatives from CSC will be on-hand at the conference to offer further guidance and tips to consider when implementing stewardship at the parish level.

Click here to find out more about the McGread Conference, including the lineup of presentations and more. You can also complete your secure online registration at this link. For more information, contact Shari Navarre at 888-822-1847, ext. 3702, or by e-mail at shari@catholicsteward.com.

Posted in Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 56: 1, 6-7; Ps 67: 2-3, 5-6, 8; Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32; Mt 15: 21-28

The readings on this Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time have a lot to do with “Gentiles.” If most of us were asked to define what a Gentile is, we might say “someone who is not Jewish.” In fact, that is what has evolved as a modern definition; that venerable Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines Gentile as “relating to the nations at large, as distinguished from the Jews.”

However, as we have often found when we carefully research and review Holy Scripture, that definition is not necessarily supported by the Bible. In Hebrew the word found in the Bible is goy or its plural goyim. These words appear more than 500 times in the Old Testament itself. Yet, not once are they translated to mean “non Jew.” Only thirty of those times goy or goyim are translated as “Gentile.” More than 300 times they are translated as “nation.”

Thus, we are Gentiles not because we are not of the Jewish faith but because we represent a nation other than Israel. This distinction is important to note in relation to today’s readings. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah lays out God’s view of His Church. God speaks of the Temple, but He insists that “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” At Jesus’ time only Jews could enter the temple. Any others who might wish to pray had to pray outside the church. That is why businesses developed there to cater to those who could not enter the temple. It was that activity to which Jesus reacted with annoyance to the money changers and merchants.

In this reading God explains to us that we are to “do what is just.” Of course, this is an appeal to us to be good stewards. The good steward, you see, responds to God out of faith, not because God has already offered a reward for that faith. In today’s reading Saint Paul calls himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Most of Paul’s letters and most of the New Testament were written in Greek. In the original Greek Saint Paul says he is the Apostle to the Ethnos. Although translated as “Gentile” Ethnos in Greek means “nation.” We hear in the first reading that God wants His House to be “for all peoples.” In the last verses of Paul’s letter to the Romans today, Paul says that “God delivered all to disobedience, that He might show mercy to all.” Paul expands the perception from the first reading that the House of God is for everyone to make sure we understand that salvation is offered to all as well.

The Gospel places Jesus in Tyre and Sidon, which is north of Galilee on the coast. It is in an area which in ancient times was known as Phoenicia. Phoenicia and Canaan were somewhat synonymous. Jesus is approached by a local woman, a Canaanite or Phoenician, who was definitely from another “nation.” Although her request is initially rebuffed, she calls out, “Lord, help me.” That is not much different from Peter’s call in last week’s Gospel, “Lord, save me.” Not only does this passage support what is offered in terms of the first two readings relating to the Church and salvation being available to all peoples, all nations, it also provides the key to salvation — faith. How often in Scripture does Jesus respond to those who have faith? Always. The Lord is prepared every day and every minute to respond to our needs, to help us with our burdens. However, we must have faith, and we must reach out as the Canaanite woman did.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 56: 1, 6-7; Ps 67: 2-3, 5-6, 8; Rom 11: 13-15, 29-32; Mt 15: 21-28

In last week’s Gospel we heard Jesus reprimand St. Peter by saying, “Oh you of little faith…” This week Jesus responds to the appeal of a Canaanite woman by healing her daughter and saying, “Oh woman, great is your faith.” We all know how important faith is; but, quite frankly, few of us really understand what faith is.

Faith is not believing in something we cannot prove, although skeptics and even many of us may see it that way. Faith involves trust and confidence. When the Lord challenges Peter’s faith, He is really saying, “Peter, do you not have confidence in me?” And when he heals the woman’s daughter He is saying “You trust me so much.”

Trust is at the foundation of stewardship. Most of us realize that “trust” is built by knowing someone well. Stewardship calls us to get to know the Lord. This is accomplished by prayer and reflection and study. We may make a greater effort during Lent at this, but we need to build prayer and reflection into our lives throughout the year. The better we know the Lord, the more we will trust Him. To have great faith in God, we must be intimate with Him, one with Him. In a recent homily, our Holy Father Francis put it this way, “Put on Christ in your life and you will find a Friend in Whom you can always trust.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 19: 9A, 11-13A; Ps 85: 9-14; Rom 9: 1-5; Mt 14: 22-33

Truly, you are the son of God.” The Apostles acknowledge that truth after witnessing all that occurred on the Sea of Galilee. What a 24 hours those Apostles had experienced. Jesus performed the miracle of feeding thousands with a small amount of food, and then He not only walked on the water, but the Apostles witnessed Peter walking on the water (admittedly only briefly), and then saw the powers of the Lord as He caused the storm to cease.

This Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time includes readings which speak of rejection, and then love and acceptance and forgiveness. The first reading from the First Book of Kings describes how Elijah fled and tried to hide, but, of course, neither Elijah nor we can really hide from the Lord. Also like Elijah, if we choose to follow the Lord and be His disciple, there may be times when we feel isolated and discouraged.

Note how God comes to Elijah, asking the question (both before and after these verses in First Kings), “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asks that question although the Lord knows the answer. God does not always come in dramatic fashion — storms or fire or wind. Often, He comes the way this reading describes Him — “a tiny whispering sound.” God may approach us in similar ways, and in order to hear and understand Him we must focus on God, and we must be prepared. That is why prayer is important for us, because God is also there in the silence.

In the few verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, our second reading, Paul covers quite a bit. Paul is saddened by the state of the Israelites. These are the same Israelites who have made life very difficult for Paul, but Christ-like, he showed love and forgiveness. Paul also states quite clearly that Jesus is indeed God: “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever.” Lives of stewardship demand that we be like Paul, showing love for all, forgiveness for all, and the willingness to embrace our Lord and Savior always.

The Gospel from Matthew, describing the scene on the Sea of Galilee, featuring Jesus and Peter, confirms what happened to Elijah in the first reading and how Paul feels in the second reading. Although Jesus questions Peter’s faith when St. Peter sinks into the water, it is a positive comment on Peter that he knew exactly to whom to turn, “Lord, save me.” We need to have that acknowledgment of the Lord’s power and grace on the edge of our consciousness at all times, too.

No doubt when Peter leapt from the boat and began to move on the water, his eyes were on Jesus, but when he realized the force of the wind and the waves, he may have diverted his eyes, and in that instant he sank. What a clear reminder to us that we must keep our eyes and our concentration on the Lord, not on the storms which may arise around us. Imagine the situation: there is a raging storm; suddenly out of nowhere Jesus appears; Peter responds; Jesus saves Peter and they get into the boat, and scripture reminds us “the wind died down.” From the noise and danger of the storm suddenly there is peace and calm. Experiencing this contrast, understanding that the power of the Lord is suddenly found in the silence (like the “whispering sound” in the first reading), the Apostles declare “Truly, you are the son of God.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 19: 9A, 11-13A; Ps 85: 9-14; Rom 9: 1-5; Mt 14: 22-33

Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Are those words that might apply to us at times? This week’s Gospel recounts the well known description of Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. We need to remember that last week we heard of the feeding of the 5,000. This narrative follows immediately after that one.

Each week all of our readings abound with stewardship messages, but this chronicle is so well known and has such a powerful message that we need to focus on it. In fact, focus is the fundamental word in today’s Gospel. The word “focus” is not used directly, but Jesus’ challenge to Peter, and to us as well, about faith, has everything to do with our focus.

St. Peter, we now know, was a man of great faith, in spite of his shortcomings. There was a sound reason Jesus identified Peter as the man on whom He could build the Kingdom, the Church. Peter leaps from the boat with faith and begins to do the remarkable by walking on the water toward the Lord. Yet he is suddenly distracted by the storm and everything that is going on around him. The moment his eyes stray from Jesus, the moment Peter loses his focus on the Lord, he sinks. We are the same. Stewardship demands that we focus on the Lord, each moment of each day. That way we have the strength to overcome anything.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 1-3; Ps 145: 8-9, 15-18; Rom 8: 35, 37-39; Mt 14: 13-21

Blessed Mother Teresa, one of the great examples in our time of what it is to be Catholic and what it is to be a good steward, said “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day He is there for us. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist; come back to that Adoration.” It is appropriate for us to remember that Eucharist means thanksgiving in Greek for it was Christ’s ideal sacrifice for each of us.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1336): “The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be a division. “Will you also go away?’ The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only He has the ‘words of eternal life’ and that to receive in faith the gift of the Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.”

The first reading from the prophetic Book of Isaiah, although written centuries before the birth of Christ, describes the Eucharist perfectly. “All you who are thirsty, come to the watercome receive grain and eatI will renew with you the everlasting covenant.” God also says in this reading, “Heed me and you shall eat well.” We must listen to the Lord, and we must listen carefully. As great a gift as the Eucharist is, it is our perception and our reaction to it that makes it so incredible. It is up to us to realize the power of communion every time we receive it, and it is completely up to us to take that gift and to spread it through love and stewardship.

We are assured in the first reading that God will feed us spiritually and that there is always enough to meet our needs. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks eloquently of the immeasurable nature of God’s love, how, if we are open and receptive to this endless love, nothing, absolutely nothing can keep us from union with the Lord. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus was fond of teaching with parables, but He may have taught more effectively with His actions. The Gospel reading from Matthew relates one of His miracles, one of those stories with which each of us is very familiar. Chapter 14 from the Book of Matthew is replete with amazing tales. It begins, sadly, with the death of John the Baptist. Upon hearing of this, the Lord is saddened and goes off by Himself in a boat. However, a huge crowd gathers on the shore, and, moved by compassion, He begins to move among them and heal the sick. It was late in the day and the disciples were concerned about how all these people were going to eat. The miracle Jesus then performed follows exactly the message of the first two readings: that the Lord will, and can provide, and that there is always enough for everyone.

The verses in today’s Gospel are often titled “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.” As they are wont to do, scholars and historians have examined this, which actually states, “Those who ate were five thousand men, not counting women and children.” Some have concluded that there may have been double that number or more. Nevertheless, the point is not the number fed; the reality is that Jesus is able to feed everyone who wishes to eat of the Bread of Life. The Lord has fed literally billions through the Eucharist. The Lord has resources beyond our wildest imaginations. We must nonetheless seek those resources through Him. Practicing stewardship recognizes that, and it leads us to lives of holiness, and to the “everlasting covenant” mentioned in the first reading.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 1-3; Ps 145: 8-9, 15-18; Rom 8: 35, 37-39; Mt 14: 13-21

Because it is a way of life, stewardship can be found in our readings at every Mass. On this Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, that is certainly the case. Our Gospel reading from Matthew is particularly rich in that respect.

All through the readings for this Sunday runs the theme of the Eucharist, Jesus’ enormous gift to us. The story of Jesus feeding the multitude is rightfully considered a “miracle,” but its strong stewardship message is way beyond the sharing demonstrated and stewardship example it provides. There is a much more subtle stewardship message to each of us to be found in this Gospel.

St. Matthew’s Gospel points out that the first thing the Lord did was to raise His eyes to Heaven and say the blessing. This prayer is a way of thanking God for His beneficence. It is the stewardship reminder that we need to thank God for our blessings. The disciples express concern that all these people must eat, and they cannot conceive of how they can feed them. Jesus’ response shows complete trust in God. Stewardship calls us to also put our trust in the Lord.

Finally, when they were all fed and satisfied, they gathered what was left so that it could be shared with others. This is a gentle sign to us that stewardship involves not wasting our gifts. Those three hints provide us with three key stewardship words: gratitude, trust, and responsibility.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections